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The origin of World War I included many factors, including the conflicts and antagonisms of the four decades leading up to the war. Militarism, alliances, imperialism, and nationalism played major roles in the decisions taken by statesmen and generals during the “July crisis of 1914”, the spark (or ‘casus belli’) for which was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria by Gavrilo Pricip, a nationalist Serb.
However, the crisis did not exist in avoid. It came at the end of a long series of diplomatic clashes between the Great Powers in the decade prior to 1914 which had left tensions high almost to breaking point.
Although World War I was triggered by this chain of events unleashed by the assassination, the war’s origins go deeper, involving national politics, cultures, economics, and a complex web of alliances and counterbalances that developed between the course of the nineteenth century, following the final 1815 defeat Napoleon Bonaparte and the ensuing Congress of Vienna.
The reason for the outbreak of World War I is a complicated issue. Some examples are:
- - Fervent and uncompromising nationalism
- - Unresolved previous dispute
- - Intricate system of Alliances
- - Misperceptions of intent :the German belief Great Britain would remain neutral (Van Evera, Stephen)
- - Convoluted and fragmented governances
- - Delays and misunderstandings in diplomatic communications
- - Arms races of the previous decades
- - Previous military planning (Sagan, Scott D., 1986)
- - Colonial rivalry (imperialism)
- - Economic rivalry
PEACEMAKING, 1919: THE VERSAILLES SETTLEMENT
The treaty of Versailles was one of the peace treaties at the end of WW I. it ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers. It was signed on 28 June 1919, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, one of the events that triggered the start of war.
PRESIDENT WILSON’S “FOURTEEN POINTS” AND SELF- DETERMINATION
A summary of Wilson’s “Fourteen points”:
1. Open covenants of peace, openly arrived at international diplomacy to be carried on publicity
2. Absolute freedom of navigation on the seas
3. The removal of all economic barriers
4. Disarmament undertaken and guaranteed by states to the lowest point consistent with domestic safety.
5. A free, open minded and impartial adjustment of all colonial claims.
6. The evacuation of all Russian territory and settlement of questions affecting Russia
7. Belgium must be evacuated an restored
8. French territory to be evacuated and restored and Alsace-Lorraine to be returned to French rule.
9. Italian frontiers to be adjusted a long clearly recognizable line of nationality.
10. The peoples of Austria-Hungary to be given the opportunity for autonoms development.
11. Romania, Serbia, and Montenegro to be evacuated. Serbia to be given access to the sea and international guarantees of the independence and territorial integrity of the Balkan state to be made.
12. The Turkish portions of the ottoman empire to be assured a secure sovereignty
13. An independent Polish state to be established
14. A general association of nations to be formed to afford mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to all states.
Wilson believed that the avoidance of war could be furthered by creating an international organization, based on the principle of ‘collective security’. His scheme for a League of Nations was premised on the ‘peace-loving’ member states regarding any threat to the international peace as an act of aggression which ultimately threatened them all.
Wilson was an opponent of imperialism and believed passionately in the right of distinct national groups to govern themselves by being accorded sovereignty over their own territory. However, in practice, the nationalities of those parts of Europe where empire had recently crumbled – especially the Balkans and the central and Eastern Europe – were not neatly parceled into distinct territorial areas. The peacemaker therefore faced a difficult task of drawing the boundaries of the new states of Europe, some of which had never existed before. The new states in Southern, Eastern, and Central Europe not only had to contend with ethnic cleavages but also with weak economies and fledging political institutions.
GERMANY, ‘WAR GUILT’ AND ‘REPARATIONS’
Germany was found ‘guilty’ of having begun the war. Germany lost land to Poland. Alsace-Lorraine was returned to France. Germany was to be disarmed, with France occupying the Rhineland as a security zone and reparations were to be repaid to the victorious powers.
Many critics found fault with the settlement, either because it was too hard, or not hard enough, on Germany.
THE GLOBAL ECONOMIC SLUMP, 1928-1933
It was a wide economic downtown. It was the largest and most important economic depression in modern history and used in the 21st century as a benchmark how far the world’s economy can fall.
The Great Depression originated in the US. Historians most often use as a starting date the stock market crash on October 29, 1929, known as Black Tuesday.
Depressions in many countries around the world resulted in extremist political movement gaining strength, many of which were of an extreme right-wing nature. The end depression in the US is associated with the onset of the war economy of WW II, beginning around 1939.
THE ORIGIN OF WORLD WAR TWO IN ASIA AND THE PASIFIC
The Pacific War was the part of WW II and preceding conflicts that took place in the Pacific Ocean, its land, and in East Asia, between July 7, 1937, and August 14, 1945. The most decisive actions took place after the Empire of Japan attacked various countries, who together came to be known as the Allies (for Allied Powers).
CONFLICT BETWEEN CHINA AND JAPAN
From 1868 onward, Japan underwent a rapid period of industrialization and modernization, with profound social, economic, and political consequences. To find new markets, raw materials and land for Japan’s growing population, Japan began to expand into northern China, while China was a protected state of civil war.
Between 1931 and 1933, Japan consolidated its hold over Manchuria, establishing a puppet state, Manchuguo. The League Nations’ response to the most obvious act of aggression it had thus far faced was minimal. And in 1937, Japan was at war with China, which caused worsening relations with the US-ultimately leading to Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbour.
THE CONTROVERSY OVER THE ORIGINS OF THE SECOND WW
The origins of the Second WW have been the subject of particular historiographical controversy. Historians still dispute how far Hittler planned the war actually and how ambition Nazi territorial expansionism actually was.
The first WW left many European states economically ruined, and with political structure weakened. Indeed, a number of empires based in Europe collapse during the war – those of Austro – Hungary, Turkey, and Tsarist Russia. This consequence of the war was initially masked by the optimism of the American economy.
Japan, in 1930s, was embarking on a search for territory in China and beyond. And Treaty of Versailles encouraged extremist political movements, most notably facism in Italy (and Spain) and Nazism in Germany.
The Second WW had profound global consequences. The war profoundly affected the map of Europe. Then, the first half of the last century should seem overwhelmingly fragmented and fissiparous.
War always makes a big pain, incising deeply pain in everyone. It needs a very long time to be healed. I think that the world has need of mutual understanding, through cooperation and communication, that we can abolish war and engender war.
The Globalization of World Politics 2nd ed: an introduction to international relations, edited by John Baylis and Steve Smith
Sagan, Scoot D. 1914. Revisited: Allies, Offense, and Instability (1986)
Van Euera, Stephen. The Gulf of the Offensive and the Origin of the first WW. Summer 1984 p. 62